Insights into Starting a Home-based Food Business – 18/11/2019

Food BusinessWith cooking reality shows reshaping the way we eat, cook and shop and with home-based food businesses on the rise (um there’s over 2000 in Geelong!!) the Skills and Jobs Centre thought it was time to bring together the Environmental Health Unit at COGG and two local businesses to talk about this growing industry.

If you want to sell food or any type of drinks to the public, you need to register with or, notify your local council. The Environmental Health Unit can assist you to obtain the appropriate food registration for the type of business you are running and to understand and comply with your obligations including the Food Act and the Food Standards Code. We were joined by Ebony Connelly and Maria McQueen, both passionate foodies and Environmental Health Officers at COGG, whose main message was that they are here to help.

Below is a snapshot of the registration process which usually takes between 4-6 weeks.

HBFB

Here is a little bit of information about each of those steps. The full presentation by Ebony and Maria is available on request.

  • Kitchen requirements (in a nutshell) – A double-bowl sink with one side dedicated to hand washing, a dishwasher, separate storage for your equipment and food and plenty of bench space for food preparation activities
  • Streatrader – Allows you to operate at markets and events in other municipalities without replicating the application and registration process
  • Markets / Events – The Food Safety standards that are applicable at home need to be replicated at the market…and you need to factor in other requirements such as temperature control during transport, hand washing, hand washing and hand washing as well as food protection (hello sneeze barriers!)
  • EHO home visit – Opportunity to address all of the risks such as cooking, cooling, using high risk foods like eggs, butter, milk and wheat and addressing allergy and dietary requirements
  • Fee Structure – The volume of food produced will decide fee level (small or large scale). The fee in first year is higher as it includes the proposal assessment and first years annual registration fee

Please remember that Council want you to succeed, but they want you to succeed within the bounds of the law. Their main role is to help food businesses make safe food. Please feel free to contact them at any stage with any questions. Their contact details are included in the useful links section at the end of this article.

Next up, we were joined by Jade and Miek who both run extremely successful small businesses, but who are taking their businesses in different directions. Jade has made a conscious decision not to expand and employ staff, but has moved out of her home kitchen to co-locate with one of her suppliers. Miek employs a small number of staff, who work from her bakery which is still located in her garage, but she is continuing to look for ways to scale up the business. They both have fascinating stories about how their food businesses began as well as some tips and tricks for those early days. Read on to find out more about these amazing local businesses.

 Jade has always been the go-to girl among her family and friends when it comes to pre-dinner food and drinks. This passion, combined with her creative streak and broad knowledge of cheese varieties, has allowed her to launch her business. Platter Co by Jade has been in operation for 3.5 years and was one of the trailblazers in the platter and grazing table business in the Geelong region. For the first 12 months, Jade juggled working full-time in a Sales and Marketing role, whilst delivering meat and cheese platter masterpieces on the weekend. After 12 months, the business reached a tipping point where Jade was able to make the decision to work full-time in her business. Jade was able to capitalise on some well-timed media exposure as well as a growing social media presence and repeat business to make the move out of her home kitchen and into a shared commercial space with Pane di Matteo in Highton.

Miek’s journey into small business was a little less straightforward! Miek graduated as an engineer in 2005 in Belgium, but soon realised the industry wasn’t for her. Whilst living in France, Miek spent five years studying and graduated as a patisserie, baker, chocolatier and an ice cream maker. After moving to Geelong with her husband, Miek spent a year researching her market and working on a business plan before making the decision to build a bakery in her garage. Ket Baker is one of only 30 bakeries worldwide to produce sourdough pastries, and one of about only 10 who do it well!! Miek credits the City of Greater Geelong, particularly the Environmental Health team with providing a high level of assistance and support in that researching stage – so don’t forget to include them in your planning stage!

Here are some tips and tricks from Jade and Miek which you might find useful for your journey;

  • Seek out like-minded individuals to be part of a support network – Being self-employed can get lonely, develop a support network who can understand the highs and lows of small business
  • Spend time up front developing a financial plan and preparing to scale up – Don’t forget to factor into your price all the time that will be spent ordering, answering enquiries, doing social media, doing your BAS etc. When business grows (and it can grow rapidly) so do your overheads, so make some plans to manage your capital and don’t over extend yourself.
  • Suppliers are not easy to manage and generally don’t like working with small business! – Choose suppliers based on the service you receive, keep them honest because they can change product without notice which can have consequences for you (think allergens!!)
  • View other companies as a resource not a competitor – Geelong is a small but growing market so there is plenty of opportunity for everyone.
  • Weigh up collaboration opportunities – What is this opportunity worth to you, what is it going to cost to be involved, what is the return going to be? Seek out like-minded small businesses to partner with and cross-promote, rather than businesses who are in the business of collaboration!
  • Develop a fantastic product and maintain the quality which will keep customers coming back – Word of mouth referrals and repeat business are the cheapest forms of marketing!
  • Be flexible, listen to your customers and adapt your product or range based on their feedback

Useful Links

Business Victoria

The Gordon – Food Safety Supervisor short course

Environmental Health Officers at your local Council

City of Greater Geelong

Surfcoast Shire

Wyndham City Council

Economic Development at your local Council

City of Greater Geelong

Surfcoast Shire

Wyndham City Council

Small Business Mentoring Service

Small Business Mentoring Service with COGG

Small Business Mentoring Service

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